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A CurtainUp Review

by David Lipfert

Overview of The International Puppet Festival '98, Schedule of Events and Links to Other Shows

A fantasy tropical forest tree comes to life and a toucan surveys the landscape. An indigenous woman revels in this earthly paradise. She languorously puts on gold body ornaments unaware that she will soon be raped, robbed and subjugated by the Spanish conquerors. A leader appears is wrest control from the tyrant rulers. Simon Bolivar successfully battles the Spanish army only to have his idealistic vision die with him.

Three superb dancers plus a clutch of puppets tell this history of Colombia in just over an hour. Life-sized stuffed vinyl puppets with oversized heads and scrawny necks represent some of the main players in this capsule history. These are then attached to the to the performers in black from head to toe. The puppets are comfortably different from us and their clumsiness is endearing, even though the scenes they enact are distressing.

Memorable images include miniature figures seated on a rolling base to represent the Spanish army. Led --or in this case pulled-- by the brutal Pablo Morillo in a striking dance, they are resoundingly defeated by Simon Bolivar inside a clomping puppet horse. Five irregular pieces of black cloth economically suggest the territories liberated by Bolivar; scattering them over the playing area economically suggests their breakup upon the Liberator's death. An apt score combines taped electronic sounds plus piano with live drums.

Denying their presumed escapist character, puppets have successfully been used to make political commentary over the years. In Colores, Restrepo celebrates the mestizo character of his country, especially the mixed-race liberator Bolivar. In spite of an extended voiceover toward the end of the show, it probably will be necessary for most of the audience to follow the program to catch all the references to Colombian historical events.

Loco 7/Federico Restrepo Puppets and Drummers will be at La MaMa's La Galleria experimental space through Sunday, September 20th.

Overview of The International Puppet Festival '98, Schedule of Events and Links to Other Shows

Director and Choreographer: Federico Restrepo
Music: German Arrieta, Gonzalo Sagarminaga
Narrator: Gary Cruz Cottes
Costumes: Gabriela Monroy
Scenery and Lights: Federico Restrepo
Puppets: Ivan Cardozo, Federico Restrepo
Dancers: Karim Noak, Federico Restrepo, Jorge Quiñones
Text: Alberto Quiroga
La MaMa La Galleria, 6 E 1st Street (between Bowery and 2nd Ave.)
Box office and ticket pick-up: La MaMa, 74A E 4th Street (between Bowery and 2nd Ave.)
Festival Hotline: (212) 279-4200
Reviewed on 9/10/98

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© Elyse Sommer, September 1998